Ovidio Guzmán Lopez Pleaded Not Guilty in Federal Chicago Courtroom

Latin America World

 “Socalj” for Borderland Beat

Shortly before 1:00PM local time, Ovidio Guzmán López was transferred from the Metropolitan Correctional Center to the Northern District Court of Illinois to attend the first appearance of his criminal trial in USA v. Guzman-Loera et al, 09 CR 383.

After a 14-minute hearing, the son of “El Chapo” Guzmán pleaded “not guilty” to the 5 criminal charges against him, including drug trafficking and money laundering. The guidelines for the media and public for this hearing, and possibly the remainder of his trial, were published. Recording, streaming, broadcasting, or photographing is prohibited inside the courtroom.

US Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman, who also presided over the extradition request hearings earlier this year, read out the crimes that the Northern District of Illinois has charged him with. Possession of drugs with the intention of distributing them; participation in an ongoing criminal enterprise; conspiracy to import, manufacture, and distribute controlled substances; conspiracy to launder money and possession of firearms.

Ovidio Guzmán declared himself “not guilty” on each charge. “El Ratón” was presented before the judge with shackles on his ankles and the usual orange prisoner outfit. He nervously answered only a few questions from the judge with the help of an interpreter.
He stated that he suffers from anxiety and depression and that he has recently undergone stomach surgery, which is why he is undergoing medical treatment.
Ovidio Guzmán’s next hearing is on November 17, 2023, in the same court. According to statements by his lawyer, he will not face any of the six charges that were brought against him in New York at the moment until the case that is currently against him in Illinois concludes.

His lawyer Jeffrey Lichtman assured that Ovidio does not plan to cooperate with the authorities and go against his brothers. “He has no plans to cooperate against his brothers […] we are going to review the case and decide what we are going to do,” Lichtman told Reuters following the arraignment.

Jailed at MCC Chicago

Ovidio Guzmán must remain in the Chicago Metropolitan Security Correctional Center, where he was registered following his extradition with BOP prisoner number 72884-748. This correctional center was opened in 1975 and has less than 500 prisoners, both men and women. 

An open-air rooftop exercise yard allows the inmates outside and exercise time in the downtown Chicago skyline.
Vicente Zambada Niebla, son of the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada, also passed through this facility after his extradition to the United States in 2010. During his stay at the MCC in Chicago, “Vicentillo” was prohibited from using the rooftop patio where prisoners exercise for fear that he would escape via helicopter.
A 2012 attempted escape at MCC Chicago.
In 2009, Matthew Nolan, brother of filmmaker Christopher Nolan, also tried unsuccessfully to escape from the prison through a window when he was detained pending an extradition request to Costa Rica for an alleged murder.

Guzman Family Lawyer

At his hearing today in Chicago his criminal defense lawyer is Jeffrey Lichtman, who was also one of the lawyers of his father Joaquín El Chapo Guzmán, in addition to his stepmother Emma Coronel who was recently paroled.

Lichtman was one of the lawyers who defended Guzmán Loera during the so-called “trial of the century”, he is the lawyer who claimed that “El Chapo” Guzmán was not really the leader of the Sinaloa Cartel (CDS) but Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada is.

During that trial, he declared that the former presidents of Mexico, Felipe Calderón Hinojosa (2006-2012) and Enrique Peña Nieto (2012-2018) received millions of dollars in bribes from the Sinaloa Cartel.

Guzmán Loera ended up being sentenced to life imprisonment plus 30 years in prison in July 2019. Many of the implications of government corruption in Mexico, accused by Lichtman were reinforced, though not directly to any Mexican President, during the trial and guilty verdict of Genaro Garcia Luna this year.

AMLO’s Response to Extradition

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador indicated that Mexico extradited Ovidio “El Ratón” Guzmán because he did not seek protection and the request of the United States was fulfilled not to give any excuse during election times in the US.

The president also highlighted that “it is important that no reason be given to those who use the issue of drug trafficking for political purposes in the United States. There are two topics that are used a lot when elections come in the United States: drug trafficking and migration.”

He stated that politicians from both parties in the United States use these issues to also blame Mexico, recently regarding fentanyl trafficking. “It is part of the political strategy, with which they seek to deceive American citizens, which no longer works for them.”

“The same with the immigration issue is always blaming Mexico but they have not found out. I am going to send you a notice, you can no longer use the telegraph or fax, I am taking advantage of this medium to tell you that things have already changed, we must warn you that the reality is now different and that you cannot be doing advertising, propaganda, politicking to affect Mexico,” he said.

Given this approach, he said that it is important “not to give any pretext so that there is no excuse when these requests are presented, they are applied and that is what was done in this case.”

Homeland Security Adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall said in a statement Friday that the extradition of Guzmán López “is a testament to the significance of the ongoing cooperation between the American and Mexican governments on countering narcotics and other vital challenges.” Sherwood-Randall made multiple visits to Mexico this year to meet with President Andrés Manuel López-Obrador, most recently last month.